Hunting

By Floyd Burleson

Back as far as there is any recorded history there has always been a plentiful supply of wild animals in these north Arkansas hills like the deer, elk, bear, buffalo, squirrel and duck. This is not to say anything about the unlimited Wild turkey and quail that were here which the Indians made good use of for food and clothing as well as the first white settlers upon their arrival. A variety of grasses, nuts, acorns, persimmons and wild grapes provide a good food supply for wild animals. My father said he could remember the trees would be hanging full of grapes all along the creeks. I can recall when there were grapevines hanging on trees that would be loaded with wild winter grapes and an abundance of wild summer grapes growing all around. Also out on the George's Creek hills there were wild huckleberries as far as one could see. There was a story told that a man was out there with his small son and they were both busily eating huckleberries. After a while the youngster stood up and told his pa he was ready to go because they had eaten all of the best ones. However, the vines were still hanging full of big, ripe berries as far as one could see. All of the wildlife here has a good supply of food.

My great uncle Taylor Frazier, a half brother to my grandmother Neacy Dearman, was a great hunter. I was told about all he did was hunt and trap. At this point I will tell a story that was told to me by my father. Taylor was out north in Cave Hollow hunting when his dogs bayed a pack of timber wolves. He got to where they were and saw the wolves had attacked his dogs and were about to get the best of them. Taylor then shot one of the wolves and instead of taking time to reload his muzzle loading rifle, he just waded into the fight with his Bowie knife. Cutting their throats, he killed a number of them. When the fight was over a number of the wolves were killed but a number of his dogs were also dead and they had about killed Uncle Taylor. However, he made it home but he was in bad shape.

I was told Uncle Frazier could locate a bear that had hibernated in a cave for the winter. He would go back in the cave and kill it. It was said he would poke the bear with his rifle and make it sit up so he could get a good shot for he sure wanted to make his shot count for a wounded bear was very dangerous. Uncle Frazier said if a bear started out of the cave you didn't want to get in his way but just lay down flat and he would walk over you. I might have been able to lay down and stay still, how about you?

My father told me about a group of men that were at the George's Creek Store one day. One of them said he had located a cave out on the head of Johnnie Creek where a bear was hibernated and he wanted Uncle Taylor to go and kill it for him. A newcomer was there and he got to telling how he went back into caves and killed bears and how he wasn't afraid of them. So Taylor invited him to go along and help him. Arriving at the cave they got all ready and lighted their pine torches and entered the cave. As they continued going back in the cave Uncle Taylor stopped and asked the other man if he heard something like a pounding noise. The man said that pounding noise was his ____ ____ heart and he was getting out of there an he left him.

When a bear was killed a number of families would have a big feast. My father said one could eat all of the bear meat they wanted and it wouldn't make them sick. I never did figure I would have any trouble at this point as I don't think I could eat it, let alone eat too much.

My father said just as soon as he got big enough he liked to go hunting with his Uncle Taylor but he said he never hunted bear with him.

All of my life there have not been any wild bear or elk here, but at the present time they are on the comeback trail. The Game and Fish Commission has been bringing them in from other sections of the country. They restocked them around Jasper in Newton County and at this time people here in Marion County are beginning to see some of them. I saw a black bear just a little west of Snow a year or so ago. There are enough bears in Newton County that they have had an open season and a number were killed.

Uncle Taylor was out hunting near Dodd City before there even was a Dodd City there. He saw a deer going around and around something on the ground. Ever [sic] little bit the deer would jump up high and come down with all four feet on it and spring off to one side. After going through this same procedure for a time the deer then left. Uncle Taylor was curious what the deer had been pouncing on so he went to investigate and to his surprise the deer had killed a big rattlesnake by cutting it up with its hoofs [sic]. The deer was so quick the snake didn't have time to bite it.

Deer were plentiful up until 1900 when they became fewer in number. I know in the 1930's there were very few to be found in this county.

The deer population increased and in 1987 they can be seen in all parts of Marion County. I see one very often around my home.

Back when deer were plentiful my Uncle Bud Bogle had a pet one. He lived out north of Cedar Grove Church on the mountain. He put a little bell on his deer so no one would kill it. Bill Sharp told me he stayed a lot with his Grandfather Hudson, who lived on George's Creek when he was a boy. This deer would come down there and he liked to play with it but the deer wouldn't let him catch it. He would take some salt in his hand and get it to licking the salt so he could rub it with his other hand. He kept fooling with it, thinking he would catch it. So one day he grabbed it around the neck with both arms but he said that was a big mistake. The deer kicked him with all four feet ripping off about all of his clothes with his sharp hoofs [sic] and leaving Bill with very few clothes and big white marks from his head to his feet. He told me a number of times about this and he always wound up by saying he never tried that again.

Wild turkeys were plentiful up until the early 1920's when they became few in number. But still in the 1930's one could go out in this section of the county and kill a turkey. I killed a number of them near my home up until the 1940's when they became almost a thing of the past around here. Then in the 1960's and 70's the Game and Fish Commission began a program to protect the ones that were left restocking them with turkeys from other sections of the United States. This has proven very successful at the present time of 1987. There are a lot of wild turkeys in and around the Cedar Grove Community. It has been so good to stand in my yard and hear them gobble in the spring. I heard one the other morning on the Comal Hill. I just hope the hunter's don't get too greedy and kill too many of them.

Mother would bake geese with dressing and they were very good eating. I killed enough ducks and geese one fall that my mother made me a pillow from the feathers. The picture before also shows that I got two nice squirrels. The younger squirrels were very good fried and the older ones were delicious cooked with dumplings. I want to point out, back in the 1920's and before one didn't kill animals for the sport but for the delicious meal they would make. It is sad to me now days some people will even shoot deer or other wild game and just let them lay. This just doesn't seem right to me.

TRAPPING AND HUNTING FUR-BEARING ANIMALS

When the first, white settlers came to these parts there were plenty of fur-bearing animals, such as opossum, raccoons, beavers, otters, skunks, civet cats, weasels, muskrats, bobcats, minks, the large timber wolves, red and gray fox and also panthers. All of these were important income. They were trapped and also hunted with dogs at night as most of these animals only traveled and fed at night. Their pelts were skinned off and stretched over a board to dry and then sold. The hunting and trapping were done in the wintertime as the fur was poor in the summer months. Also in hot weather the pelts would spoil. It had to be cold weather as no one had a deep freeze to put them in. At the present time not many pelts are stretched and dried; they are skinned and rolled up to put in a deep freeze and then sold.

Most of the young boys in the 1920's had a trap-line they ran before going to school. Most had a tree dog and would go hunting at night.

In December 1938 one coon and two opossums was a big catch for then because there were a large number of hunters and trappers and a small number of coons and opossums. However these animals are more plentiful now in 1987.

I had a trap-line I ran on my way to school. It was a way a boy had to make a little money. In the 1930's there weren't too many jobs for a young man to have. There was W. P.A. work made avail- able by the government. Also the C. C. C. Camp, something like the army, furnished work and training. However, they did not pay much. After I was out of school I helped my father on the farm and started farming and working at odd jobs when I wasn't busy on the farm. When I didn't have something else to do I cut cedar posts and sold them. I also trapped and hunted fur-bearing anirnals in the winter as I could make more at that than I could anything else.

The trapping and hunting season was usually the months of December and January. Sometime in the 1920's Sears Roebuck and Company started a market for fur. They had six fur houses one could ship their fur to; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chicago, Illinois; Memphis, Tennessee; Kansas City, Missouri; Seattle, Washington; and Dallas, Texas. As so much money was being lost in the poor way the fur was being cared for, Sears began to give a $5.00 prize for the best handled and prepared pelts they received at each fur house each day. Then at the end of the two month season they would give ten prizes for the best ten pelts received that season. First prize some years was $2,000.00 and on down. I began to ship all of my fur to them because I got more money for them and I also had a chance to win some of the prize money. I had a pelt in the finals for sixteen years. I was never able to win in the single pelt division. In the 12th National Fur Show (I 940-1941) I had a pelt in the top twenty. That was quite an achievement in itself which one considers I was competing with trap- pers from all over North America.

I had better luck in winning in the Best Pre- pared Shipment Division (there had to be five or more pelts in a shipment). In 1939 I won $50.00 on one of the two best prepared shipments received at Memphis, Tennessee that season. I would like to point out at that time I could make around a dollar a day cutting cedar posts.

Then in the week of January 8, 1953 I won $200.00 on the best prepared shipment at all six fur houses. The mink pelt included in this was skinned, f ixed and dried just like they wanted them to make a woman's stole out of. It even had every toenail on every toe. When they were prepared that way they brought a lot more money, about twice as much. In addition to the money, Sears paid my way and my family's way to Little Rock to present the award at a luncheon given by them at the Albert Pike Hotel where we spent the night as their guests. In carrying out the fur-trapping theme, the company had a small animal trap placed next to each plate on the table. For a cute touch, each trap was painted in gold and along each handle or (trap spring) each individual guest's name was printed. Little Rock Mayor Remmel presented me with the key to the city saying it would get me in any place in the city, but wouldn't get me out of nothing. The manager of Sears took us on a tour of the Sears Roebuck Store and the city of Little Rock. It was very enjoyable.

Besides making money I enjoyed trapping very much. Also I feel it gives plenty of exercise. Getting out early and running a ten or fifteen mile trap-line, going up and down hills and over ledges and wearing a pair of hip boots wading along in the creek will make a man out of you.

At the present time there is very little trapping done in this community except by C.L. Patton and Les Hall. Patton lives west of Pyatt on Highway 62 and uses a pickup and covers a lot of the country. He Puts in full time trapping during the season and told me he made good money at it. It's not like the by gone days when a trapper walked his trap-line. There are still a lot of hunting with dogs. A lot of them come a long way in a pickup and let the dogs out to hunt. There are a lot more fur-bearing animals in this section at this present time than there has ever been in my lifetime. The beaver had been completely trapped out by the time I was born in 1915, however, there are a lot of them now on the creeks. The western coyote has moved in to replace the wolf and there are also a few panthers or cougars now.

Before the railroads were built across North Arkansas, the fur was collected by the fur buyers and hauled to Springfield, MO. and other places by wagon. After the railroad was built most of the fur was shipped by railroad express and U.S. Mail. Also many of them were shipped by the trapper to St. Louis and Springfield, MO. At the present time its almost all hauled to market by truck.

I was told that many times Mr. McKinney would buy so many pelts that he would be coming up the road leading his horse with all the fur tied on it that all one could see was a little of the horses head.


Reprinted with permission from Treasured Memories of a Beautiful Place in the North Arkansas Ozark Hills by Floyd Burleson, copyright 1989.